Authors: Ani Alexander
Annika turned the key to open the door and felt as if she was turning a whole new page of her life. A nicer, happier, more exciting page...
The day had been filled with so much adrenaline, emotion, stress and happiness, that she fell asleep as soon as she got into bed. To look at her sleeping, you could see the smile on her face.
The smile was still there when Annika woke up. She felt happy simply knowing that Stefan existed, and that was something completely new. Thinking about some guy first thing in the morning was something she’d never ever done before. Standing under the shower, Annika recalled each and every detail of the previous day and lived it all over again. She was charged with positive energy and in a radiant mood.
Fresh and happy, she ran down the stairs and went out. She had to be at the university in an hour. Unlike yesterday, it was a perfect sunny day.
The first thing she saw was the black car.
Stefan had been waiting for her the whole night. After Annika had left he had just sat there and thought about her. However foolish it might sound, the idea that she was close by had made him feel very comfortable. So he had just stayed there, trying to imagine how Annika was sleeping, what her room looked like and what she was thinking. He even had a crazy question turning round in his head, “Is she dreaming about me tonight?” As he saw her coming out, he stopped breathing for a second.
A reaction both unexpected and very predictable at the same time.
Annika ran over to the car and kissed Stefan through the open window. She felt just as if her life had always been like that - with him in it.
They spent a whole hour drinking coffee and having breakfast, talking of nothing and everything at the same time. After that he took her to the university.
Annika studied medicine for the first half of the day and was an intern at the hospital for the whole afternoon. She worked with patients with different kinds of burns. The odour of burnt skin was the most terrible stench Annika had ever smelled. She took long showers trying to wash away the smell and forget the pain and despair of her patients.
Neither of Annika's parents was a doctor. Nor had being a doctor been her childhood dream either. She had never wanted to become one... until she was ten years old. That was when her friend Mike got sick and went to hospital, diagnosed with a scary illness called leukemia. She regularly visited him there and they would play together. One day Mike asked her to promise that when she grew up, she’d learn how to cure people like him. She promised. Mike died three days later holding Annika's hand and she felt that she just had to keep her promise.
Annika studied and worked hard. Helping her patients she felt as if she were helping Mike. She truly believed he watched over her and smiled every time she succeeded. Leukemia, unfortunately, was not something she could cure and children still die from it every day.
Needless to say, the black car was waiting for her in front of the hospital when she finished. She walked over to it as if she had been doing it for ages.
That Saturday Annika called home and announced that she was leaving for a team-building session for the weekend with colleagues and that she’d be back on Monday after her classes. Instead, Stefan took her to the mountains and they had their first weekend together – away from everything and everyone.
It was a painfully beautiful spring. Spring was all around, outside and inside. The peaceful mountains were in stark contrast to what was going on inside them.
The first time they made love was in the car. The atmosphere sparked with electricity, the silence was deafening, their caresses burning and kisses biting. This was completely new territory for her but she wasn’t frightened at all. In fact she was too excited to think or feel anything else.
“You’ve never...?” he looked deep into her eyes.
She shook her head. They both understood. Stefan was tender and attentive, but passionate at the same time. Annika was hypnotized, totally in a daze and shattered by the feelings, sensations and excitement.
The car which had almost killed the girl gave birth to a woman!
Annika wrote about it a few days later in her diary. She wanted to put it down on paper so she would never forget those feelings.
Returning to the city, they fell into the habit of breakfasting together every morning. He would then drive her to university and pick her up from hospital after he finished work at the bank. Annika never understood how a person so creative and artistic could work in a bank. It was one of those mysteries she could never fathom.
During their time together Annika started to suspect that Stefan might have health problems. She began to notice different symptoms and was scared to find out whether she was right. One evening Annika went to an internet cafe and with trembling fingers
googled “haemophilia”, although she was certain she knew the answer. She just wanted to find out more details so she could understand him better, be prepared emotionally and know what she was getting herself into.
Symptoms range from easy bruising to prolonged bleeding. Bleeding can occur spontaneously (without an external cause) or as a result of injury.
How easily or badly a person bleeds depends on the severity of their deficiency. Minor cuts and grazes don't usually cause any significant problems, but internal bleeding can be life threatening, while repeated bleeding in the joints typically leads to arthritis or long-term joint damage.
Mobility problems may also result from this spontaneous bleeding.
Haemorrhages into the brain are particularly difficult to manage and can be fatal.
There is no cure for haemophilia and....”
The words began to swim in front of her as tears filled Annika’s eyes. Her hands were trembling and all she could think was, “Why? Why him? Why is there no cure?” But what she didn’t consider even for a second was life without Stefan. So all she could do was gather her courage and accept the fact that if she wanted to live with Stefan, she had to live with the haemophilia too. She had only known him for a few days but already felt that, no matter what happened next, she would love him forever.
The next day, just two weeks after their first meeting, Annika and Stefan went out for dinner. For the first time that week there was some slight tension between them. Stefan felt nervous and, although Annika could not put her finger on anything specific, she knew that the day was going to be significant.
Stefan parked the car in front of Annika's building and turned off the engine. Annika realised that he was going to say something extremely important. From the very first day they had had coffee together, they had been able to communicate with hardly any words. They could feel each other’s thoughts and sense every slight movement in the other's soul.
Stefan looked at Annika. He took her face in his hands and stared straight into her eyes. His look was filled not only with warmth, love and tenderness. There was something else. Something like fear, anxiety or worry.
“Babe, I've got something to tell you. Something really important,” Stefan coughed nervously and continued, “I adore you, I love you, I am mad about you and I really want us to be together. I no longer want to take you home every evening and go back and feel the loneliness at nights even stronger than before, since now I know how it feels to be with you. I would like you to move in with me, but before you decide there is something extremely important you need to know. Living with me will be very difficult because...”
He did not get any further. Annika put her finger to his lips and made him stop. She knew what he was going to say. She had already read everything in the internet article.
“I know and I’ll move in first thing tomorrow morning.”
That was the only time they almost pronounced the name of the terrible disease. After that it was never ever mentioned again.
Are you crazy, Annika? You’ve only known him for two weeks!” Annika's mother shouted.
“It doesn't matter! I love him and I want to be with him!” Annika shouted back so as to sound convincing.
Annika's father sat on the couch holding his head in his hands. He did his best to stay calm but was very tense and worried.
“Please! You are only seventeen. You love him now, but you may not love him in a few months’ time. First loves never last,” Annika's mother said in desperation, feeling there was nothing she could do.
“Even if that’s what happened to you, it doesn’t mean it will happen to me too. I know myself better than you do.”
“You are going to ruin your life.”
“It’s my life!!! And I will do with it whatever I want, whether you allow it or not.”
Annika strode off to her room. Her only desire at that moment was to take the things she needed to begin with and disappear. She’d deal with her parents later, when they were able to take things more calmly.
“Mum, Dad – I love you both, but I cannot give up what's already part of me. I’ll call you in a few days and come to pick up the rest of my stuff.”
Her dad hugged her tight and said,
“I just want you to know that you can come back any time you decide to.”
Her mum was upset. She cried and couldn’t say a word. She just squeezed her hands - as if to say that she agreed with what dad had said.
Through the window her parents watched her run to the black car. They had to admit to themselves and to each other that their daughter had grown up. All they hoped was that Stefan didn’t smash her dreams and hurt her.
Stefan watched her run to him with a bitter-sweet feeling. He was in seventh heaven at the thought that Annika was to be with him but at the same time he knew what a huge responsibility had landed on his shoulders.
Annika was so certain about her decision that she never even entertained the thought that there could be any other possibility. Her decision was not the right one: it was the only one.
When Stefan drove them home, Annika realised that she had never been there before. To the place which, in a few minutes, was to become her home. “The sky’s the limit!"... Now she had the chance to practise what she preached. In fact she felt as if there were no limits to anything anymore. She felt she could even fly....
When they climbed the stairs, Annika's heartbeat echoed their footsteps. She followed Stefan knowing she would follow him anywhere.
Stefan turned the key. The sound of the lock turning and of the opening door symbolized a new beginning, a fresh start, a different life.
Stefan opened the door, turned to Annika and smiled. He lifted her off the floor and carried her inside. It looked corny but it felt right. Annika closed her eyes for a moment in order to open them afresh and behold the place where she already belonged.
The apartment was freshly renovated and almost empty. Stefan had only been there for a few days. In fact he had first slept there the day before he had almost knocked Annika down. It was a two-bedroom apartment with white walls. Stefan's guitar leaned against the wall, giving the place a romantic and artistic touch. The only furniture: a big bed, a stereo system and a coffee machine. Feeling as they did, who could ask for anything more?
With time, it became their paradise. Empty but filled with each other, with feelings, with excitement, passion, soul-shaking love-making and happiness-building. It was all as perfect as people usually wish it could be, but such perfection happens only - in exceptional cases - to very few of them.
No matter how much of a paradox it may sound, for Annika this was the beginning of her freedom.
Annika had the freedom to arrange the place the way she wanted. It took her about a week to empty Stefan's boxes and sort out his clothes and belongings. She brought some of her stuff from her parents’ house. Over time they created the cosy surroundings she longed for. Their bedroom was the best place to be and she adored the mornings when she was brought coffee and breakfast in bed. Stefan usually woke up before her and made this delightfully romantic gesture. She felt like a little princess, saved by a knight on a white horse – exactly like her childhood dreams after her dad had told her bedtime fairy tales.